Will Lula’s Brazil be a game changer at COP27? | The Financial Express

Will Lula’s Brazil be a game changer at COP27?

Brazil, endowed with the Amazon Rainforest and dubbed as the ‘lungs of the earth’, is one of the countries from the Global South whose stand has often been under scrutiny by the world

Will Lula’s Brazil be a game changer at COP27?
Brazil's former president and presidential frontrunner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Reuters Image)

Dr Aprajita Kashyap

The 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27 is a meeting of 197 countries that have ratified the UNFCCC) (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) that begins in Egypt from 07 November 2022 will witness deliberations by several heads of states or their representatives, businessmen, scientists, indigenous community members and activists on how to keep the commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement intact. The attainment of the assurances could be gauged through the implementation of recommendations of the earlier COPs and honouring the nationally determined contributions (NDC) towards achieving the goals of curtailing carbon emissions. One area that will attract the focus of the developing countries, especially India, would be the definition of climate finance and the extent of its flows for climate action.  

Brazil, endowed with the Amazon Rainforest and dubbed as the ‘lungs of the earth’, is one of the countries from the Global South whose stand has often been under scrutiny by the world. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s during his two previous Presidential stints had put Brazil on a firm economic footing while ensuring a responsible environmental policy, the latter being hailed as being among the most progressive in the world. Lula’s success in declaring bold targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the rates of deforestation in the Amazon had put him at or near the top of the list when it came to eco-conscious world leaders.

Dilma Rousseff, though a protégé of Lula, during her Presidency digressed and gave sweeping amnesty for those who had illegally deforested, outraging environmentalists and scientists. On analyzing her programmes, there were two kinds of outcomes – the skeptics’ views revolved around the key assertion that Dilma had continued to consider the environment “an obstacle to development” as she had said during the Copenhagen climate change summit while the believers opined she had emerged as a more consensus-oriented politician being convinced by arguments from the environmentalists and had continued Brazil’s positive trend of curbing deforestation. Nevertheless, the rate and extent of deforestation have always remained a debatable issue in Brazil under successive governments.

Also Read: Lula’s victory: A win-win for all?

Even before taking over as President, Jair Bolsonaro had decided to back out of Brazil’s offer to host the COP 25. On assumption of Presidential office, two departments of the Ministry of Environment that dealt with climate change and mitigation policies were nixed, the decision to end the environmental fine was firmed up and the selection of Cabinet members hostile to the fight against global warming was made. But then, after two years of downplaying the Amazon crisis and dismissing calls for action, the Bolsonaro administration changed the tone of its public statements in 2021 at the climate summit, where he pledged for the first time to curb deforestation and increase resources for environmental law enforcement.

Lula, a pro-environmentalist, in his first and second stints had chosen to surround himself with a Cabinet made up of equally fervent Ministers- Dilma as the Minister of Energy and Marina Silva who is a staunch environmentalist, as the Minister of Environment. Despite these efforts, at the end of his term, Lula rode a great wave of popularity for his measured yet progressive approach towards development while he netted disappointment among the environmentalists for not making the preservation of nature his highest priority. Leaving aside the criticisms, Lula’s success lay in declaring bold targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases and reducing the rates of deforestation in the Amazon.

In the present context, the President-elect will participate as the head of his political party and not as the President since he takes over only in January,  in the COP 27 at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. The environmentalists have immense expectations from Lula as the major plank of his campaign were the promises to protect the Amazon rainforest and restore Brazilian leadership on climate change. Lula’s attending the conference of parties is more of a signal to the world that Brazil is ready to take a proactive position towards halting climate change. The expectations of the world can be fathomed from several news items- the Times published under the headline: “Lungs of the Earth breathe sigh of relief at Lula’s election victory” and the New York Times’ write up quoted Lula’s victory speech -“Let’s fight for zero deforestation”. For Lula it would be a mammoth challenge, given the adverse impact of the policies under Bolsonaro on the environment and the blockade his efforts may receive due to a right-wing dominated Congress.

Delving deeper into the Brazilian context, it is apparent that there are certain areas that have continued to evoke concerns regardless of the ideology of the incumbent government: deforestation as a source of greenhouse gas emissions; the role of the farmers and indigenous people; changing weather patterns; and implementation of national policies and international agreements and regime. Even though Lula’s selection shows he evinces measurable popularity among Brazilians for his positions on environmental policies, the dilemma remains- should the priority be development or the environment? Clearly, development remains important as is corroborated by the fact that Brazil needs to maintain its ranking as the twelfth largest economy in the world (World Bank 2021), yet the clout that it has acquired at the multilateral environmental fora necessitates that it must tread the path of sustainable development carefully.

(Author is Faculty in Latin American Studies Programme, CCUS & LAS, SIS, JNU, New Delhi. Email: aprajitakash@gmail.comaprajita@mail.jnu.ac.in)

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First published on: 06-11-2022 at 17:54 IST